Britain's Channel 4 will be forced to find a new presenting team for the Great British Bake Off, after popular hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins announced they were quitting the show ahead of its move to the commercial channel.
The presenting duo, who have hosted all seven series of the BBC baking show, said that they had opted against "going with the dough", as part of the programme's £25 million move to Channel 4, and would instead step down at the end of the current run.
The announcement came as senior figures at the BBC told the Telegraph that the corporation had lost Bake Off after a "catastrophic breakdown" in its relationship with the production company behind the show.
Love Productions is understood to have accused the BBC of "ripping off" the Bake Off format to create two new shows, involving the search for the UK's leading amateur artist and hair stylist.
While the BBC has tried to portray the loss of the baking show as a purely financial matter, a source at the corporation said that there had been a "total breakdown of trust" between the broadcaster and the production company, which made it "impossible" to agree a deal.
It is understood that Love threatened to sue the corporation over Hair, a BBC Three programme released in early 2014 that was billed by the broadcaster as "a competition to find Britain's best amateur hair stylist", and was widely reported as being akin to a "Bake Off for hairdressing".
A senior BBC source said Love had told the broadcaster that the programme was "staggeringly similar" to the Bake Off format, and that the corporation had agreed to a financial settlement with the production company, to prevent the case going to court.
Barely a year later, the corporation was accused of attempting a similar move over the BBC One show, The Big Painting Challenge, presented by Richard Bacon and Una Stubbs.
The broadcaster billed the programme as a "nationwide search for Britain's best amateur artist", which Love again complained bore all the hallmarks of its own baking show.
The BBC is understood to have enlisted an official mediation service to try to settle the claim, with executives alleging that Bake Off itself had similarities to MasterChef, the BBC cookery contest, and that Love did not have a valid case. In the end, no settlement was reached.
The negotiations between Love and the BBC for a new deal for Bake Off are believed to have started late last year, after Nadiya Hussain won the competition, in a final that was seen by 15 million viewers in the UK, the biggest television audience of 2015.
The BBC's opening offer to renew the contract is said to have equated to only an inflationary rise in the £200,000 that it currently pays for each episode of Bake Off, which was rejected out of hand by Love.
The rancour between the two organisations is said to have been heightened by the fact that the corporation insisted on classifying Bake Off as a factual, rather than entertainment, show, meaning that it attracts a far lower budget than programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing, which are seen by fewer viewers.
The talks were further complicated by the fact that the corporation had a high turnover of executives over the past year, with senior figures including Danny Cohen, the corporation's one-time television chief, leaving the corporation, and Mark Linsey, his acting replacement, also moving on.
By the time a final crunch meeting was scheduled, for yesterday, there was little expectation on either side that a deal could be done.
BBC sources say that the corporation offered Love around £15 million to keep the show, around twice what it currently pays for the full package of Bake Off-related programming, which the production company dismissed out of hand. Several hours later, Love signed a three-year deal with Channel 4.
We've had the most amazing time on Bake Off, and have loved seeing it rise and rise like a pair of yeasted Latvian baps. We're not going with the dough
SHARE THIS QUOTE:
The commercial broadcaster faces a battle to replicate the success of Bake Off on the BBC, not least because of the decision of Perkins and Giedroyc to quit.
The pair, whose unstoppable innuendos are a key draw for viewers, are understood to have rejected entering talks with Channel 4, and quit without inviting an offer from the broadcaster.
In a statement the pair said they were "very shocked and saddened" about Bake Off "moving from its home".
They added: "We made no secret of our desire for the show to remain where it was. The BBC nurtured the show from its infancy and helped give it its distinctive warmth and charm, growing it from an audience of two million to nearly 15 at its peak.
"We've had the most amazing time on Bake Off, and have loved seeing it rise and rise like a pair of yeasted Latvian baps. We're not going with the dough. We wish all the future bakers every success."
Channel 4 is believed to have entered formal talks with representatives of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the show's judges, with some sources at the commercial broadcaster expressing quiet confidence that it would secure their services.